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Sasuke, Sakura, and Hinata sat, scarcely breathing, behind a rather large row of bushes. Hinata had her Byakugan activated, watching the two ninjas guarding a small building nearly two-hundred feet away.
Sasuke was angry. He had just gotten his life back and now that damned snake had stolen the person he thought of as his brother. "How?" he thought. "How the hell did he get him without a fight?" His hands balled into anxious fists...waiting for the signal to move. He rubbed the back of his neck where the curse seal used to be.
Not long after Naruto had brought Sasuke home, and thanks to the help of a seal expert from the Hidden Sand, Tsunade had managed to remove the seal from the young Uchiha.
After a day of healing both Naruto and Sasuke were moved to a room in the out-patient ward of the hospital. Two days after that Tsunade had decided Sasuke's actions had been mainly the fault of the seal and declared him safe from all persecution.
Sasuke thought back to the third day after Naruto had brought him home....
"Hey, Naruto?" Sasuke mumbled as he sat up in the hospital bed he'd been laying on. He winced as Tsunade attended the numerous wounds that Naruto had had to inflict to beat some sense into him. However, it would take more than a skilled medical-nin to heal the wounds of his heart.
Naruto looked up from his seat next to the bed. "What?"
"What was that thing?" Sasuke asked, causing his best friend to freeze in place.
Naruto knew exactly what Sasuke was talking about. He looked at Tsunade as if asking for her permission to tell his story. She nodded and stood to leave the room.
Naruto took a quick, but deep breath. "Thanks, Tsunade....sama," he said as though using the word 'sama' in reference to Tsunade was difficult.
Tsunade froze in place for a moment, an eyebrow cocked in surprise. "Did that brat just show me respect?" she thought in mild amusement. She then smiled, nodded and left the room, quietly shutting the door behind her.
Naruto sat in silence for a few moments. He gulped and looked at Sasuke.
Sasuke was getting impatient, but he knew pushing for a break from the silence might make Naruto lose his nerve.
"Haven't you guessed yet?" Naruto asked. Although it was more of a statement since he knew the answer.
"Of course I haven't, dobe," Sasuke replied in frustration.
Naruto ran a hand through his thick blonde hair and sighed. "How much do you know...about the Kyuubi?"
Sasuke's eyes went wide as dinner plates as suddenly, horribly, it seemed to all make sense. He could only hope that his instincts were wrong for once. "You...you're...the nine tails??" he stammered, fighting the urge to back away.
"No. But it is sealed inside me...." Naruto answered, fully expecting his best friend to tell him to get out. Or call him a monster and then....
"That explains it."
Naruto looked up, tears threatening to fall from his eyes.
"Everything. It all makes perfect sense now," Sasuke finished. He noticed the look of disbelief on Naruto's face. "Did you think I'd call you a monster?" Now Naruto's eyes went wide. Sasuke saw this and suddenly felt sick to his stomach. "You did. Didn't you?"
Naruto slowly nodded.
Silence ensued for a long while as Sasuke considered his response. Finally, he spoke again. "I'm sorry," Sasuke said, regret deep in his voice.
"For what?" Naruto asked as he wiped his eyes with his arm.
"For making you doubt me like that. For making you think I'd so easily call you a monster. Especially when the real monster...is me." Sasuke looked down as he finished his sentence, missing Naruto's expression, which was a mixture of confusion and surprise. "I nearly betrayed Konoha. Nearly...killed you," he continued as he stared at his right hand. The very same hand that had held the deadly chidori just a few days earlier. "This hand...it was..."
As Naruto watched in amazement he saw something that he had never thought possible. There were tears in the eyes of Uchiha Sasuke. "Sasuke?" he thought in question.
"It was through your body. I...I could feel...your...your blood...your organs...and...and it didn't bother me!" Sasuke said in a choked voice.
Naruto reached a hand out toward his friend. "Sasuke...." he began.
Sasuke slapped Naruto's hand away. "NO! Don't you get it???" he screamed in rage and sadness.
"Sasuke...it was the seal..." Naruto began.
"I ALMOST KILLED YOU!!!!" Sasuke screamed as tears began to flow. "I was so absorbed in avenging my family that I didn't even see the one I had!!!" he cried.
Naruto couldn't believe his ears. "Family? You consider me...family?" he said as the tears returned to his eyes.
"You, Sakura, even Kakashi. You're all I have....and I nearly destroyed that. I nearly lost everything...again..." Sasuke said as his tears soaked into his shirt.
Naruto suddenly looked very determined. "Sasuke...I...I'll help you."
Sasuke looked at Naruto. "What?"